What is a Milk Frother?
In coffee shops, milk is prepared with a steaming wand attached to a commercial espresso machine; the steam both warms up the milk and infuses it with enough air to change its consistency. An automatic frother does both of those functions in a slightly simpler process.
More versatile milk frothers even withstand the addition of flavoring powders or ingredients like chocolate chunks that transform milk into chai or hot cocoa. With the option to simply froth or foam milk without raising its temperature, some frothers make it possible to create pro-level iced or cold coffee beverages that otherwise aren’t easy to make at home.
Our editors have spent dozens of hours testing and reviewing the best milk frothers. We’ll share them below.
What to Look for in a Milk Frother
Milk frothers come in various styles—in addition to electric heaters and frothers, one can buy battery-powered wands that froth right in a cup, or even manual devices that aerate the milk with a series of hand-pumping motions. But as prices for electric frothers that also heat milk are becoming more affordable, they’re becoming more complete, low-fuss solutions for those who want café-quality drinks in the convenience of their kitchens.
Anyone shopping for automatic milk frothers has a lot more to choose from than just a few years ago. Apart from obvious qualities like size and capacity, the differences between each brand can be hard to spot. So most important factor to consider when selecting a milk frother is you, and how you plan to use it.
Are you a connoisseur who’ll make a different drink every day, or a moderate drinker who’ll mainly use it for your morning beverage and occasional specialties?
When comparing models, you should evaluate five different properties of each automatic frother:
- Features. The core function of a milk frother is simple: aerate milk so it develops a velvety foam. That’s all many shoppers will want from the device, but a few of them come with some tricked-out features. A few of the larger milk frothers can heat milk at the same time, which is a major time-saver for espresso addicts. Others have multiple whisks for different frothing actions: jagged for cappuccinos, smooth for lattes. Almost all automatic frothers come with interchangeable disks for switching between simple heating and full-on frothing. It all depends on your day-to-day expectations.
- Power. For standalone, larger milk frothers and automatic heaters, its power profile is most commonly measured by how long it takes to produce a complete cup of, rich milk foam or froth. The machines covered in this article all foam and froth both cold and hot milk, which usually takes anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds. Warming up cold milk adds about a half-minute to that finish time.
- Ease of Use. You’ve seen how steaming wands are used to both froth and heat milk, and it’s a bit of a complicated dance bobbing the spout in just the right spot and depth. Automatic milk frothers get rid of that issue entirely: The user just pours the milk into the pitcher or container, selects the temperature or frothing style desired, hits a power button, and stands by confidently for a minute or two. Some frothers require a little more attention in terms of upkeep—not all pitchers all dishwasher-friendly, and cleaning them requires a little more precision and focus.
- Construction. The durability of an automatic milk frother correlates closely to the materials used to make it, and how sturdy or solid its base machinery is. Good pitchers are generally made from stainless steel or very dense plastics and should fit comfortably atop the base that provides its power. Compactness is always a desirable trait since frothers have to compete for counter space with toasters, blenders, or other appliances. But robust construction with a bit of heft is an indicator of a frother that will last.
- Price. As you might expect, the bigger the frother, the sturdier its construction or the more features it has, the more it will set you back. Electric frothers with more features and size can price out at more than $110, and some models with only a special trait or two can be scooped up for less than $50. As with anything you purchase, with automatic milk frothers you definitely get what you pay for—so spending a good deal more on a longer-lasting, multi-faceted frother may be the wiser investment for frequent users. If you don’t plan to use it that much or for different reasons, something less expensive could be more valuable to you.
The 5 Best Milk Frothers
Rating each automatic frother on each of the five “things to look for” above, our favorite five models are as follows.
The Breville is a serious machine for serious home cafés. It’s pricey, but you can see where every extra penny went: Huge capacity, exact temperature management, near-automatic controls, and sturdy construction. The Breville is most suited for alternate uses, including making cocoa with real chocolate pieces, chai lattes, and drinks with syrup. It’s also sturdy and durable—as costly as it is, you may save bundles in not having to replace it.
- Features: If you splurge for the Breville, you’ll never lack for anything. The pitcher’s 16-ounce capacity is enormous, and the micro-adjustable temperature dial is unique amongst all the frothers we reviewed, not to mention staggeringly precise. 5
- Power: Most electric frothers take a little more time, especially if you’re using the heating element as well. The Breville’s 2-minute time frame for hot, frothy milk is acceptable, especially given the volume it can handle. 4
- Ease of Use: Pour, set, and push the button. You can’t get much easier than that. The detachable pitcher is dishwasher-safe, a huge cleaning advantage. 5
- Construction: The Breville has a multiplicity of parts: pitcher, lid, base, whisks. So there’s more to keep track of. The pitcher’s brushed chrome and the base’s sturdy weight are close to professional grade. 4
- Price/Value: At around $130, the Breville’s the most expensive of these frothers, and the one-year warranty is a bit brief considering the overall mechanics. Still, its power, versatility, and user-friendliness ensure it’s a solid long-term kitchen investment. 4
Capresso makes an extensive line of milk frothers, most of which have similar functionalities and setup, with slight differences in construction and capacity. The frothPRO offers the best compromise of purpose, durability, and affordability. It’s distinguished by its innovative, magnet-powered motor: Instead of using machinery, the frothing action runs on rotating magnets for low noise and very consistent results. The temperature settings are regulated with three options. For middling budgets and relatively consistent demands, Capresso’s frothPRO is a standout.
- Features: The frothPRO covers three simple settings: cold, warm and hot. It comes with a heating disc and two froth discs, all of which store magnetically at the bottom. The magnet-powered action is a singular feature that sets Capresso apart. There’s also an automatic shutoff, and the plastic pitcher has a 12-ounce froth capacity. 4
- Power: Capresso’s frothers have very few moving parts, thanks to their using magnet-based revolutions to power the frothing action, which cuts way down on the noise. Foaming takes about 30 seconds after the milk’s heating, and frothing takes around 90. That’s around industry standard. 4
- Ease of Use: As with any electric frother, it’s just a matter of choosing your temperature, pouring your liquid and pressing the button. With no reactive chemicals inside the container, it’s truly dishwasher safe. 4
- Construction: The frothPRO is a stout-looking device. Its relatively deep well for the pitcher prevents excessive knock-overs, and its compact size won’t overtake your countertop. 4
- Price/Value: The retail price of $75 is a little high for mid-range frothers, but if you don’t need excessive customizations and just want long-lasting consistency, the frothPRO is a worthy bearer of the Capresso brand, with a one-year warranty. 4
The Nespresso’s flagship frother is a high-end model that’s a little more compact than the counter-hogging Breville but offers a great combination of power and structural endurance. Its four distinct froth or form options top the number offered by mid-range machines and provide relatively consistently rich froth and foam. Frequent upkeep is necessary, however, and its range of abilities is a bit narrow compared to ultra-pro models. But with proper care and help from Nespresso’s proactive customer service, it’s a dependable option.
- Features: The Aeroccino has four settings for milk treatment: cold, hot, frothy, and extra frothy. So you’re stuck with those hard-wired settings, but they work. The pitcher has half the capacity of the Breville but suffices for most everyday use. 4
- Power: You can expect a finished froth within 80 seconds for cold milk and 150 for hot. For an electric frother, that’s not bad. It also works in standby mode, which is convenient for intermittent daily use. 4
- Ease of Use: If you can pour and push buttons, you’re in the clear. Although the Nespresso site says the pitcher is “dishwasher safe,” you do have to make some concessions so as not to damage its inner coating—which some reviewers have noted is suspect to peeling. 4
- Construction: All function, no fuss. The stainless steel, cylindrical container is sleek, with a screwed-on handle and a shaped spout for easy pouring. The lid doesn’t allow for easy addition of powdered ingredients like cocoa. 4
- Price/Value: The chrome Aeroccino averages to about $120 with a one-year warranty. That’s decent for the functionality and endurance, but for just a few dollars more you can get a higher-end model with more capacity and adjustability. 3
For espresso drinkers who have generally consistent, unwavering needs in their daily routines, mid-priced automatic frothers are acceptable substitutes for high-end, heavily accessorized machines. The Kuissential Frother handles foaming, heating and frothing in a small, uncomplicated packaged. There are only two controls—hot and cold—and the switch between frothing and mere heating is done by switching out the frothing wire and heating element. Its compact capacity makes it suitable for personal or two-cup use at the most, but it’s quick, reliable, and fairly easy to maintain. Its significantly lower price and extended warranty make it the strongest mid-line frother in the market.
- Features: The stainless-steel pitcher advertises a frothing capacity of 115 milliliters, which translates to less than four ounces — a bit small. For heating milk with no froth, it can handle 250 milliliters. There are only two functions for cold and hot froth, with two detachable attachments for heating and frothing. 3
- Power: Cold frothing takes a quick minute or so; heating adds about 15 to 30 seconds to that time. That’s quite acceptable. The process is very quiet. 4
- Ease of Use: The start button is the only control mechanism whatsoever on the Kuissential: Depress it once for hot froth or heating and hold it down longer for cold frothing. That setup’s not quite as foolproof as having multiple buttons, but it’s still far short of rocket science. 3
- Construction: The non-stick coating in the stainless-steel pitcher is a nice touch, especially since you’ll be manually cleaning the inside of the pitcher quite often. The coating prevents the pitcher from being dishwasher safe. 3
- Price/Value: Functionally, the Kuissential is a near-wash with the model ranked below it, but it retails for much less: about $45 with a two-year warranty. Considering its basic operation, relative durability and compactness, that’s not a bad deal. 4
The Secura bears a lot of visual and functional similarities with the carafe shaped Kuissential, with just a smidgen more pitcher capacity and a couple of accessories. It’s also a strict hot-and-cold operator but has clip-on storage for both the heating element and the frothing disk in the plastic lid. The Secura gets the job done consistently but requires a little more attention in upkeep and costs more than other serviceable mid-liners.
- Features: The Secura’s stainless-steel pitcher handles a quaint 125 milliliters, just a mite more than the Kuissential. The clear lid has clip-on storage for the heating element or whisk. It also has the same two functions for cold and hot froth, and a helpful, dollhouse-size cleaning brush. 3
- Power: The Secura is swift with straight frothing—about a minute. Heating and frothing add between 15 and 30 seconds to total time. The motor’s quiet and unobtrusive. 4
- Ease of Use: Like the Kuissential, the Secura only forces you to use one button, with the same controls for hot or cold frothing. The manufacturer strongly advises against using anything but milk in the frother—no ground chocolate, in other words—which limits its range, and the pitcher’s bottom must be scrubbed with the attached brush to avoid milky buildup. It’s a little high maintenance. 2
- Construction: Your basic stainless-steel cylinder, with a spout formation at the top and non-stick coating inside for you to work that little brush’s magic upon. The handle is big, sturdy and comfortable to hold. 3
- Price/Value: The Secura retails for $70 with a two-year warranty. The longer warranty period is helpful considering the daintier nature of the product. You should be able to get a more functional, more user-friendly model for a similar price, and a near-equal performer for less. But you might not get the Secura’s brush. 3
Home Frothing: The Stats
A milk’s “froth ability” is correlated to its protein content, not its fat content. Protein makes up 39% of the calories in skim milk, but only 22% in whole milk. That’s why skim and low-fat milk—which contain higher proportions of protein than fatty whole milk—tend to make richer, fuller bubbles when foamed or frothed.
Even most non-dairy milk alternatives, like almond and soy, foam up surprisingly better than whole milk, thanks to their protein content.
If you were to make a 16-ounce latte with flavored syrup at home, the total cost of the ingredients—syrup, coffee, and milk—would add up to about 70 cents. The going price of a 16-ounce, chain-bought flavored latte is around $4.95. (Including the cup.)
Using a high-end, $120 milk frother to create one 16-ounce latte per day at home would pay for itself in about one month. A mid-line, $70 frother would take a little over two weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions
First and foremost, follow the written instructions that come with your frother. Generally speaking, with the appliance-style frothers, pour the milk into the container up to the fill line, press a button for the function you want, and wait for one to two minutes. If you need your frother to heat the milk, that will add a little time.
With frothing wands, just pour cold or hot milk into a container like a glass or a cup with room on top to allow for the milk to expand. Then simply hold the frothing end just below the surface of the milk — don’t submerge it too deeply — with the motor running for 20 to 30 seconds, depending on your desired result.
The wands are easy to clean: Just run the frothing end under a tap of very warm water for a few seconds. Since this is so simple, it’s easy to do this after every use, and you should.
For automatic frothers, read the operating instructions. Many manufacturers label the detachable pitchers of their milk frothers as “dishwasher safe,” but may contain inner linings that deteriorate or peel off subject to the high temperatures of dishwashers. It’s always safe to clean pitchers inside and out with dishwashing soap, a gentle rag and a light dry. The electric base of a milk frother should never go in the dishwasher. If your frother coil isn’t removable, be extra careful washing around it. It’s also a good idea to run a “water” shot through automatic frothers as often as you can for basic cleanliness and maintenance.
Most do, but it depends on the type of milk substitute you use. Certain types are much more amenable to frothing action than others. Of the most popular milk alternatives, oat milk is the best frother; almond and rice whip up fairly well; soy and coconut still work, but the results aren’t quite as luscious.
You could, but most manufacturers advise that you not use them on liquids of a thicker consistency than milk. Blending powdered cocoa into milk is fine; beating egg whites (but not yolks) most likely is okay; mixing ingredients for a cake, definitely not. If you must test the limits of your frother, only use the wand style to do so. They don’t have a bunch of complicated internal parts that could get damaged, and they’re cheaper to replace if you go especially ballistic.
As with any appliance in your home, an automatic milk frother is only as valuable as the amount it’s used. But that amount should increase when you find out just how much you can do with foamed or frothed milk, hot or cold—it’s not just for cappuccinos and lattes. Even high-end, seemingly pricy automatic milk frothers and heaters can save everyday users a lot of cash and effort down the line. Once you’ve decided how much you want to make, and how often, there’s an automatic milk frother that will complement your style perfectly.